Monday, February 28, 2011

School Hours

   I shared with you our "normal" school day here.  It's changed a bit now that we are embracing our inner night owl.  This weekend I was thinking about how to make it work a little better and started looking through some different books and things for suggestions.  I stumbled across a couple cool ideas but really liked one suggested in the Foundations book from Classical Conversations.  My girlfriend attends one of the groups in Lansing and got me hooked on the fun memory work they do so I ordered the book :0)

   In the book the author recommends deciding how many hours you need to set for school and then set a timer at the beginning of the hour and let the kids get going for 20 minutes and during those first 20 minutes play with little ones and then from 20-30 minutes work with your K-3 graders, 30-40 work with 4-6 grade, 40-50 Jr. High and 50-60 High School.  I like the idea because Elijah's work probably only takes about 20 minutes at a time and then I can spend 10 minutes reviewing and answering questions with him.  The olders keep working until you get to them at their "time".  This means they are getting at least 30 minutes of time alone with Mom.  The author set 4 hours a day and said it worked well because it didn't matter when they got to it, they knew they were done when the 4 hours were done.

   I think we may adopt this way for a bit and see how it works.  We would probably need 4 hours as well. 1 for read alouds and Sonlight Core, 1 for writing/Table Time, 1 for math and other subjects and 1 for reading. I don't think I 'll set what they need to get done in their hour, they have a list and know what they need to do. They can do it in whatever order they choose and just know they need to finish it within our 4 hours.

   The other reason I like this is because we have had some busier days lately and because we are sleeping in we don't always get all of our work done early.  When we pick it up in the evening I often get the "Uuuuh, mom!" because it's family time not "school time".  But, if they know we only completed 2 of our 4 hours it will be no surprise what's expected that evening.  I'm wondering if that will be enough time for Carter as we add more advanced courses for him.  I guess we'll just have to see.  He may have to bump to 5 hours like suggested by the Robinson Curriculum.  I really like some of their ideas over there.

  So for the next week or two we will be experimenting and we'll see how it goes.
 What do you think of this idea?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Tuna Canoes

   On Wednesday I was searching for a "green light" lunch for us and made the yummiest tuna!  We served it in homemade pita pockets and I should have taken pictures but we ate it too fast!

  First here is our pita bread recipe.  I made these the day before.  Then for the tuna this is what I did-

2 cans of tuna drained
red onion chopped
several dill pickles chopped
1 can northern beans drained
Mrs. Dash garlic blend seasoning
Hellman's Olive Oil mayo

 We mixed that all up and then stuffed a romaine lettuce leaf in the bottom of the pita, filled with the tuna and stuffed in some red pepper strips.  It was really good!  I wasn't sure the kids would like it but they did and they named it Tuna Canoes!  The boys all had seconds and even the girl's liked it.  Addison (1) had some of the tuna in a bowl, a warmed up pita cut into triangles and some red pepper strips to munch.  I was so proud of her eating like a healthy lady!  The beans helped stretch the tuna so instead of 3 or 4 cans we only needed 2 and we got some extra fiber too.  If you have a smaller family you could easily save the leftover tuna for another day.

  This will definitely become a weekly thing in our house.  Give it a try!

Thursday, February 24, 2011


   Number three in our acrostic poems goes to Caleb.  Caleb is my middle of the three boys and always known as a toddler as "me too".  Whatever his big brother did or said he would do or say too!  Now he's becoming his own man and that's hard sometimes when you're 10. Interesting fact about Caleb's name, when in labor we still didn't have a middle name and I remember exactly where I was standing having a contraction and all of a sudden I said, "How about Matthew?"- after my contraction of course!  Matthew is MY nickname believe it or not.  My brother had dyslexia and would write Tam as Mat sometimes so I became Mat the brat ;0).  If the phone would ring my mom would call, "Mat!" and if I was being a dork she'd call me Matthew. When I played sports I would go by Mat.  Add to that Paul's mom goes by Mattie and my grandma was Maxine and often went by Mattie. So Caleb is more often called Mattie or Matt by me than anything else. Around the house he is also known as Buddy (Elijah named him that as a toddler because he couldn't say Caleb).  SO, we could have done any number of names for his poem but we stuck with Caleb!


   Caleb's poem I think is our best.  It is totally him.  He is so sensitive and caring.  He is fantastic with babies and toddlers because of how gentle and caring he is.  He loves to draw and is known as the best drawer in the house.  He's always laughing or trying to make someone laugh and has the funniest belly laugh ever.  Hands down the boy will be an engineer of some sort.  He can make, create or fix just about anything.  And he is truly the best brother any boy or girl could ask for!

In pictures...

Lego master!

Best brother to all!

Like I said... engineer.  He made this up on his own.  No plan or pattern just a pile of wood and some tools.  Shoots awesome too!

Caleb has a deep and growing faith.  He worries often about doing something wrong to disappoint God.  Law is understood by Caleb.  Now we work on understanding grace.  Although a shy guy, if he opens up someday I know he could change the world!  Can't wait to see what God has planned for him.
Love you Buddy!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Healthy Eating Update

   Hmmmm, we've run into a bit of a problem today with our "green light day", even with some snacks of fruit and veggies I don't think we are getting enough calories!  Even though we ate quite a bit we are only around 1000 + calories.  Definitely not enough for a growing 13yo... or his Mama!  Or any of them for that matter.  Not that I want to fill that with empty calories but this is a bit harder than I thought to go 100% on these days.  Maybe I'll allow a small sweet on these days??  I could make some whole grain cookies or something... hmmmm.  I'm thinking on this one.

Healthy Eating Challenge

Current Events for Jr/Sr High

   I stumbled across a great resource last week for Carter I wanted to share.  Student News Daily is a website that features current events from many different sources.  There's a daily article and then each day of the week has a feature.  After each article are great questions to get them thinking or to find more information about the place they are reading about.  The best part is the answers are emailed to you every afternoon!

   I've been using the daily article with the whole family and then the weekly articles Carter does on his own.  After he's read it we will talk about what he read and go over the questions. He's really liking it and I'm liking that some of the questions are to get his opinion and thoughts not just boring fill in the blank busy work.  He asked if we could print them and he could save them in a notebook so later he could look back at what was going on in the world when he was young.  What a cool idea!!

   To be honest there are days I don't see or hear the news so reading these with the family and then talking with Carter about his has helped me stay more informed as well.

Take some time to check it out ;0)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Healthy Eating Challenge

   This should be posted tomorrow but oh well.  We are going to try a little healthy eating challenge for the next 21 days.  They say 21 days for a habit to set in so that's what we're going to try.  We eat pretty healthy.  Probably like... 70-80% good whole foods.  We still enjoy our sweets a little too much and will get a pop at least once or twice a week.  We also will do fast food maybe 2-3 times a month.  Not terrible.  But, with more sitting in the winter and having 3 out of 7 in the family who easily put on a few pounds when not careful, I've noticed a little pudge, a little slow moving and a little too much munching and dessert making!

   Instead of going too crazy we are going to try a balanced approach.  We are going to eat what we call "green light foods" (from Dr. Sears book Eat Healthy Feel Great) also known as whole foods, God Made foods or in the words of Jillian from Biggest Loser, "anything from the ground or that has a mother" 4 days a week.  So Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.  On the other days we will still eat well but allow a sweet, pasta or lunch meat on a sandwich etc.

   Elijah has been dealing with a lot of reflux lately and Caleb has issues with that sometimes too.  After some reading up on this way of eating I'm hoping we can at least lessen their symptoms.  From what I've read your body has a hard time processing... well processed foods.  Something about giving your body a one to two day break from that kind of stuff helps in digestion and elimination.  Here's hoping!

   Our biggest struggles will be with lunch ideas and cutting out the munching in the evening.  We like a dessert to munch while we watch TV at night.  We're going to try to have no food after 7/8:00 to help with the night time reflux as well.  That will be my biggest struggle for sure!  We will allow exceptions if company comes or we go to friends homes on "Green Light Days" but we won't just blow things.  We'll try to make the best healthy choices we can with what is available. For example, we will choose water over pop or juice etc.

   I'm being a little strict with carbs.  Basically homemade breads and tortillas will be allowed but store bought breads and tortillas (even if whole wheat) will be saved for the other days.  I know breads like Ezekiel bread are very healthy but it is way too expensive for our family.  I do make homemade bread, tortillas and pitas when I have time or feel like it.  I may just have to start feeling like it a bit more!  Our other challenge is Paul can't always get to a microwave at work so I'm going to have to be creative in finding filling things that don't need reheating for his looong 12 hour days... hmmm.

Tuesday's Menu
BF= Swiss Oats (we love this)
L= Baked potatoes w/ veggies and cheese or beans on top
D= Crock-pot fajitas made with chicken and veggies on homemade tortillas

Snack ideas for these "Green Light Days"- plain yogurt with fruit, veggies, fruit, string cheese, hard boiled eggs, hummus with veggies or homemade bread/tortilla/pita

   If you're interested I'll list some of our other menu plans in the future.  I was pleased to see many of our staple dinners are "green".  Lunches... not so much.  Breakfasts are pretty good but we need to replace the processed syrup with real maple syrup (yikes! pricey!).  I'm hoping this will be a life long habit for us all and we will notice some good health benefits.  Thankfully my kids are pretty open to healthy foods.  We've had and used Dr. Sears' book for many years and they all often ask, "Is this a green light?"

Wish us luck!!  Join us if you'd like!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Night Owl Update

   I thought I'd share an update on how our late night... late mornings are going.  Well, surprisingly well!  The girls wake up sometime between 8 and 8:30 and the boys around 9 (unless they forget their alarm).  We have a pretty slow morning and to be honest I have no idea what time we are starting school!  We start when we get chores and things done.  I know we always start before lunch!  I also know we are just working through and still usually done or just finishing when the neighborhood kids are walking down the street home from school (3:30/4).

   The nice thing is we are doing a good part of school when Addison is napping.  She's not getting neglected and I don't feel like I need to nap when she does because I was able to sleep in a bit.  I still wish I had it in me to get up at even 7 some mornings but as of now I don't.  Maybe someday :0)  Sometimes I think about having them wake just a bit earlier but there are often days I've been up until 1 or 2:00 and I'm thrilled they are still asleep at 8!

   We have changed a few things around.  The last two days we have turned our Before Breakfast Chores to Before Bed Chores done before any family TV or bedtime.  We just started this Thursday and it has worked out well.  The Family Room is straightened after Addison goes down and is cozy for family time, I fold while we watch a show and everyone can put their things away before they head to bed and the dishwasher is ready for breakfast dishes in the morning.

   I must say this goes against every organized bone in my body.  I like to know we are doing chores and this time and school at this time and we will be done at such and such time.  I'm really quite amazed I'm liking this!  I guess all those years of making schedules and charts have helped me realize what needs to get done and the kids are running on good tracks of habit and now we don't need to be as strict with the time part.  Crazy I know but it's working!  Mornings are much calmer.  I don't wake feeling already behind and I can have the cozy cartoon mornings with the girls I felt I was missing out on.  It just doesn't feel like a good morning without a sippy cup and Dora :0)  It also gives me time to make a bigger breakfast if I want... see if I was up at 7 I could always make that work!  My only catch right now is workout time.  I was doing that early.  I haven't worked out in a couple weeks and I'm not sure where/how to fit that.  I'm still thinking on that one.  I know come warm weather it will be no problem to sneak out in the evening but as for this cold dark season... not sure.

   Well, there you have it.  For now late nights and late mornings are working well!  Go figure!

Friday, February 18, 2011


   I said I'd share our Acrostic Poems with you over the next little bit so here is Carter.


  Excellent is because even as a toddler he wanted things "right".  He doesn't always like to work that hard for excellence but lucky (or unlucky, not sure) for him most things come pretty easy for him.  The "ruler" we laugh because again even as a toddler he was very quick to tell us the rules and keep us to them.  If we said we were going to start reading the Bible at breakfast instead of the evening you better believe with Carter around you WILL be reading the Bible at breakfast PERIOD!

  He's growing now and Paul and I are really enjoying the changes.  Yesterday he had his first workout with Dad lifting weights.  They've both been looking forward to him being old enough to do that and have been waiting till he was a bit older so it would be good not harmful to him.  They were down in our storage area on the Bowflex for an hour or so and I could hear them talking the whole time about goals and form and all that good stuff.  Paul even called me down to check out his "awesome form".  They had fun and as a mom it was fun to watch (and hear) their interaction.

Carter in pictures...

Always the Lego man.

Figured that one out WITHOUT just moving the stickers like his mom!

Our funny guy being the "ruler"... get it... see the ruler in his hand!  Weirdo!

   One fun thing I'm enjoying with Carter is the conversations we're having now that he's getting older. I like sharing why we made some of the parenting choices we have with him and getting his view or opinion.  The other day he asked me why we never let him do the Harry Potter books and movies after seeing a commercial.  I shared with him that we didn't like the fact they made witch craft good or bad.  Witchcraft is bad period.  I told him the stories are pretty good and Daddy even read some of them before we made the decision and he enjoyed them.  Our choice was made because as a youngster he (Carter) never did anything a little bit.  He didn't like space, he was known by all as the "space kid" and he knew every fact about it.  We didn't want him in over his head with Harry Potter at a young age.  I continued to share that now that he was older if he really had a desire to read them to let us know and we'd talk about it.  He listened the whole time and then went on to say he understood the stand on witchcraft and then laughed that we were probably right with it taking over his time.  He sat for a few minutes and then just said, "Hmmm, if I want to read them I'll let you know."  I think it's a pretty cool place to be when we can talk about our choices and his, and have real conversations.

  I look forward to the future, working together to find and fulfill God's purpose for his life. I think the Lord has big plans for him ;0)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Math Facts and Games

    My girlfriend Deb shared with me last week a fun math game she is doing with her boys.  I decided to give it a try with my two younger boys (7 & 10) and they love it!  Caleb (10) has been struggling with math this year and we have backed way up in his math and are redoing much of it.  However, as we have gone forward what I'm realizing is it is not the concepts he's not getting but his math facts he is struggling with.  He knows them but still has to think for a minute or two and that makes math long and boring and fertile ground for mistakes.  Deb shared this game with me around the same time I read this post by Jeannie Fulbright (author of the elementary Apologia science books) about math.  Basically she shares how important math facts are and if you don't know them well... well you start having the problems we are!

   So what's this game??  Basically it's a fun way to do flash cards really (and I may be doing this a bit different than Deb is but it's working).  I wrote math problems on a full piece of paper and the answer on an index card like this-

    Then, use your imagination!  Sometimes we spread out the big papers and they put the answers on top.  Other times we spread out the answers and they put the problem on top.  We'll use the stopwatch and see how fast they can do them, how fast they can bring me the right answer to the card I hold up or simply go through the large papers like regular ol' flashcards.

   Elijah is working on his addition and subtraction while Caleb is working on multiplication.  Sometimes they race each other or cheer each other on.  Elijah's favorite is to spread out the answers and then I hold up a question and he has to jump to the right answer.  

   By the way, when we race we are not beating the other person but just beating our own best time.  Poor Carter was feeling left out of all the fun so he joined us today too!  A little review won't hurt anyone right!  This is helping Caleb tremendously.  I am just trying to figure out right now if I want him to just drop math for awhile and really focus on his facts and then pick it back up or just slow down on his math but still keep plugging along.  This week he is just slowing down. 

   Funny, since our kids are home they judge what grade they are in simply by what math book they are doing!  Elijah is just finishing his 1st grade book in the next week or two and Caleb still has about 8 weeks to go in his 4th grade book since we backed up almost to the beginning a few months ago.  Elijah couldn't care less but Caleb hates it because he's "suppose" to be in 5th grade (actually because of his birthday he could go either way but he started early so HE thinks he "should" be in 5th).  I told him that's the beauty of homeschooling!  We'll slow down for now and who knows, in a year or two he may start flying and we'll let him.  Maybe he'll catch up or surpass where he thinks he "should" be!  And if he doesn't... oh well!  We'll still get to where we need to go one way or another.

   If I could turn back time I would have focused harder on math facts in the beginning regardless if he understood the why behind it.  I think I will use this approach with my 3 younger ones and see where it gets us.  Here are some interesting thoughts on this approach from the Robinson Curriculum.

So how about your kiddos?  Homeschool or not, if they are struggling in math check out how well they know their facts!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Musical Blessing and More

   I LOVE music.  Two of my friends and I use to sing at different churches together when I had only one and two children.  It was SO fun! Then Miss Pam moved :0(  and we haven't done it much since. One thing as a singer I always wished I knew was piano.  I can't plink out the simplest tune and that is frustrating when trying to learn a song.  I have always wanted my kids to learn piano too but unfortunately with 5 kids and 1 income it just didn't happen.

   Enter in Christina!! Yay!!  Christina loves music ALMOST as much as she loves the Lord!  I asked her if I could barter anything with her to teach my kids and she said she would love to teach them just because!!  I am insisting I bring dinner for her family the evening she helps so when we leave she is not then cooking for her family of 8!

   I'm super excited to maybe learn right along with the kids and curious to see who loves it the most and learns it the easiest.  Not only did God provide a friend who loves music to teach them, I hopped on Craig's List last night and found a keyboard perfect for learning for quite a bargain.  I am quickly becoming thankful for the fact that the keyboard can have headphones plugged into it!!  They can't keep their hands off of it!

   So Thursday starts our grand adventure.  Paul and I spoke today with amazement in how God has provided for our little family.  The boys wanted to play basketball and we really couldn't afford that times 3 kids and all the running... no thanks.  Enter Mr. Z who decided to start a small homeschool basketball group of 2 teams to learn and scrimmage.  It was by invite only and it was free!  The boys got the invite and LOVE it. It's one night a week as opposed to 3 and did I mention free!  Then I mentioned on my online homeschool support group (some of my best friends!) that there was a geography curriculum I was looking at and Anne pipes in she has it, doesn't use it like she thought she would and would be happy to give it to me!  So I'm paying shipping only and super thrilled to try it out. In the midst of paying bills and unexpected expenses that bring us pretty much down to nothing at times in the bank and often to our knees in prayer, I am thankful beyond words for these little things that keep our life feeling... I don't know... normal.  It seems normal to afford piano and basketball and at times it feels very strange to not be able to do the "normals".  I can say, sometimes not being able to do things IS the blessing as well!  We're learning everyday.  For today I am thankful for the unexpected things we get to do because of the generous and loving hands and hearts of those around us.

God cares about and provides for even the little things!  Why does that always seem to surprise me??

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ode to Addison

  We did acrostic poems this week and I thought I'd share a few over the next little bit.  As I was going through pictures on my cell phone I decided I HAD to do Addie first!  Who is Addison???

Nurturing (or naked depending on the day!)

Now in pictures!  She is...

Artistic... often on paper but at times the walls and my new furniture have worked well for her (thank you very much).

She loves to snuggle with her sister...

and her brother.

Looking into different career options for her future... What up dog!

Attempting to bring Disco back.

Did I mention delightful?  And dangerous??

Oy!  We love this girl!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Why Do I Have To Learn This??

   Do you remember as a kid asking, "Why do I have to learn this?"  You were listening to a lecture or studying for a test and thinking there is not going to be one other time in your life you are EVER going to need to know this.  I hated that feeling.  It felt like a waste of time.

   As a homeschooler I looked forward to telling my kids why they needed to know something.  I looked forward to NOT asking them to memorize things for a test that they would forget a week later and never use again.  Was I successful?  Nope.  In the beginning I was, but as they got older I fell under the pressure of what they "should" know.  Who decided what they "should" know?  A group of educators who just... decided!  I didn't even realize I was doing it until last year and then I was so mad I could have spit!  How did I fall for that?!  I decided to step back and pray and think about what we were doing and why and so far so good.

   I don't know why but yesterday during some quiet time I was looking over our plans for next year and decided to think about why I was choosing that particular thing and what I was hoping we'd get from it.  If you haven't done this before it was really eye opening.  My list of why we are studying these things this year...

History- FASCINATING!!  The stories we are going to learn about are awesome!  Also the Geography we are going to be using gives them a great chance to EXPLORE our world.

Science- AWE.  It is amazing to see the Creator in all of creation!

Math- THINK.  Some things just are, period.  2+2=4 and Jesus is the Messiah.  Some things just are.

Writing and Spelling- SHARE.  I want them to be able to share with other people through the written word.  That's much easier when you now how to write well and spell!

Grammar- PRECISE.  Some things get easier the more you understand the pieces as opposed to the whole.

Literary Analysis- DIG!  Go deeper and understand more.

Bible- UNDERSTAND.  Don't just read God's Word to read it.  Understand it.

Fine Arts- APPRECIATE.  Understand the talents God gave to each individual to share with the world and enjoy them!

Read Alouds- LOVE!  Love being part of a story.  Love discussing it with your family and friends.  Love knowing about more than yourself, your surroundings and what's on TV!

That's why we're doing what we're doing this year.  How about you?  Why are you doing what your doing?

History and Science

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Night Meal Idea

  I made this the other night and the family loved it!  I don't know where the original recipe came from but I mixed it up a bit and it was fast easy and pretty healthy.  I don't even know what to call it!  How about....

Meaty Macaroni Stuff  (remember this served a family of 7)
1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground venison (you can use more beef or turkey instead if you like)
2 tsp garlic powder
salt to taste
1 lb. uncooked macaroni noodles
2 cans tomato soup
2 cups water
1 regular size package frozen veggies (the ones with corn, carrots and green beans)

 Simply brown the meat with the garlic powder (you can add whatever other spices you like) and drain.
Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for about 20 mins.  Cover it the last 5 minutes if needed to help the noodles cook and maybe add a bit more water if it looks too thick.  That's it!

I served it with some steamed green beans and bread and butter.  Yummy :0)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Shameless Plug

   I've now talked to many friends and even met strangers who I find out are friends of friends or family who will say, "I love your blog!"  It's so great to hear!  I am loving writing it :0)  If you're reading it often, would you mind looking to the right and you'll see a section that says "Followers", and click that you're following.  That gives me a fun way to see how many are reading.  AND, you're learning a lot about me, but I don't know you!  Feel free to leave comments!  If it's not allowing you to comment it's probably because you don't have a Google account.  A Google account is free and will allow you to have an email account and all sorts of stuff (that I never use), but it will also simply allow you to leave comments at most blogs that are a blog.  I have ways to click and see how many people have looked at my site and what country they are from (which is really cool!) but I don't know how many are "regulars" or just happened upon my site. As a follower I will  know that you at least stop by often.  And I also had a few people ask if it's OK to tell others about my blog and the answer is- of course!  Share away! Hope it's blessing or at least entertaining someone out there :0)

Have a great day! 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Give Me Jesus

   Last year around this time I found myself horribly ill.  We are still not sure what happened besides, at the very least, a virus.  I was hospitalized for 10 days and unable to care for my children for two of the three months I was sick.  I learned a lot and I swore I would never take my health for granted and for awhile, I didn't.  Over the past year not all the symptoms went away.  It seemed some of them just lingered and showed their ugly head now and then.  Well last week they came back with a vengeance.  Not all of them (praise God) but some of the worst ones did.  I went back to the doctor and now that I don't have a million different things going on it seems we may be getting somewhere.  I seem to be having some blood pressure or heart issues.  I see a cardiologist on Thursday and hopefully we'll figure out how to put an end to all of this.

   What's my point here?  My point is, I thought I was dying last year and so did some of my family at the time.  It was truly horrible.  I didn't think I'd ever forget how horrible it was not to have my health...but I did.  It seems God is so rich in mercy and grace He gives us these blessings that often go unseen.  This blessing reminds me of the labor pain amnesia we all seem to get after having a baby.  Yes, we remember it hurt... A LOT!  But somehow we forget the magnitude of it in between labors until the first hard contraction hits!  Then in a flash we remember! I really forgot the magnitude of how I felt last year until I finished shoveling 19" of snow last week and had some of the pain and symptoms come back.

  What I wrestle with is, if I forget the pain, how do I keep His mercy in the forefront of my mind?  How can I help myself remember the gigantic truth of Him?!  At one point in my illness I envisioned myself as a little girl sitting at the foot of the cross wrapped around it like a child around her parent's leg.  I didn't care where I went or where that cross went, but I was NOT going anywhere without HIM!  I hated that feeling... and I loved that feeling.  I'm not sure you often get that bare bones about life.  It's funny, I want to say I want that feeling always, but it was such a horrible time... I don't know if that makes sense.

   I want to live a life that everyday I live for Him.  I want my children to see I do what I do for Him.  I want to make every choice pleasing to Him.  The problem?  I am a wretched rotten sinner!!  Deep in my being I want those things, but in the flesh I want so many other things that are so unimportant but seem to scream so loud! I want to be healthy and strong.  I want to be fit and fun.  I want to look pretty and have nice clothes.  I want my children to be well behaved and easy when we go out or have people in.  I want my husband to understand every one of my needs and meet them... without asking!  I want to watch mind numbing TV at night and eat chocolate :0)  You may be wondering what's so sinful about all those things.  Well, nothing really, except for the fact I find myself often putting more time, thought, worry and enjoyment into those things than into my relationship with the Lord.  I will often put more time into exercise than Bible reading or praying.  I will worry about my children's behavior and nip that in the bud but miss the deeper heart issue because I'm not taking the time.  I will be angry at my husband for not meeting my needs and ignore the fact that he's not suppose to meet all my needs!  HE- Jesus Christ, is the only one who can meet all my needs!

   I was very scared when I got ill this week and found myself falling into fear quickly.  So, I fell to my knees immediately and prayed for forgiveness and also for help remembering that He is in control and I want what He wants even when I don't understand.  And then I felt the Lord asking me, "Do you want your health... more than you want Me?"  I was instantly frozen.  How do I answer that?  Yes, my flesh wants health more than my God. That's the honest to goodness ugly truth of it.  Thankfully my spirit whispers louder than the flesh can scream, "Give me Jesus!" Then I am suddenly finishing the praise song I love, "you can have all the rest, give me Jesus."  Do I want to choose?  NO!  I want both!  I want Jesus and my health!  Is He asking me to give up one for the other?  I don't think so.  I think it was answering my question, "If I forget the pain, how do I keep His mercy in the forefront of my mind?"  Remembering to ask myself often- do I want to look good to the world more than I want Jesus?  Do I want to watch mind numbing TV more than I want Jesus?  Do I want my children to do all the right things but not know and understand Jesus?  To those questions, thankfully my flesh and my spirit agree, NO! So I begin each day, each moment, constantly reminding myself why I'm doing what I'm doing.  What am I missing?  What is the better thing?  Where should my focus be right now?  How can I change this habit or goal to bring glory to my King?  I struggle to remember.  I forget. I get knocked down.  I get up again, and again, and again.  Will I ever be perfect? Nope.  Is that my goal?  Nope.  More of Him, less  of me.  Help me understand You Lord for who You really are, not who I perceive you to be.

Give me Jesus.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Organizing Kids "Stuff"

    With 5 kids in the house one of the things that really started annoying me about 2 kids ago were cups and school "stuff".  It seemed they went through a million cups and glasses a day and never remembered which one belonged to them.  They also never wanted to claim any leftover papers, folders or notebooks that happened to be left laying around.  They would insist it wasn't theirs until we peeked inside and lo and behold it was theirs!  The answer...

Color coding and coasters!

    I think a lot of families have figured out color coding.  It's simple, when buying things like notebooks, cups even special bins or toys we try to get "their" color.  Carter is green, Caleb red, Elijah blue, Hannah pink and Addison purple.  We tried to pick colors that are easy to find.  Now if there is a blue notebook on the table I know right away it is Elijah's.  I'd like to even push this into the bathroom with washcloths and towels.  Someday when I have some extra cash to do nothing with (HA!) I'll do that.  It has really helped simplify things and I passed it on to Grandma so even this Christmas when she got the boys all a similar toy she got them in their own color.  Perfect!

   Coasters are the best way we've handled cups in our kitchen.  We've been doing it for a good 2 years now.    Someday (when I have that extra money again) I'd like to take them to a pottery place or pick up some tiles and paint and let them decorate their own coaster.  For now this is what we have-

    I smile every time I see these because 17 years ago they were part of a wedding gift!  We used them at our first apartment and then they got packed away for years.  When I pulled them out I found we must have lost one and it left us with 5!  At that time I only had four children so the other was just extra, but it made Addison's name official when we wrote on her coaster a few weeks before she was born :0)  So this is the point of coasters, we have a small counter over our dishwasher and that's where your coaster stays.  You pull it out when you get a drink in the morning and that's where your cup or water bottle stays.  It's great because I don't care what cup they grab, I know it's theirs because it's on their coaster.  It didn't take long to train them to do this.  I just called them back whenever I saw cups not on coasters.  Now I know who forgot because everyone else will have a cup on a coaster and then we'll have one lonely cup on the counter with that persons coaster still resting in the holder!  It has made a lot less mess.  When we started this our dishwasher had been broken for a little over a year and I was so tired of washing all the cups!  Now even with a dishwasher it still keeps the kitchen a lot cleaner.  Here's what our little counter looks like when in use-

   There you have it.  Today's quick organizing tip!  What are some ways to simplify things at your house??

Monday, February 7, 2011

Am I Crazy???

   Probably so.  The last two weeks Paul has had a mini vacation and we have enjoyed just hanging out with Dad.  It worked with our school break so it was perfect.  What was not perfect was that it allowed us all to fall back into our night owl habits.  We are ALL night owls over here.  Even baby Addie sleeps in until 8:30/9.  So we had a family meeting and everyone decided to stop fighting it and try to go with it for a few weeks and see what happens.  I was surprised because my boys generally enjoy getting up early to hang out but they all voted for later mornings.

 So here's what we decided- alarms are now set for (I can't believe I'm admitting this in public) 9am!  Yup, they will easily sleep past that if I let them.  We will basically bump our daily schedule up an hour.  Breakfast will be at...gulp...9:30 and school will start around 10:30.  It makes me cringe because it just doesn't seem "right".  However, we've been living this way the last week and a half and enjoying it! And we've been fighting against this for so long.  It hasn't made a big difference so far if we need to get up early, we just do and they seem to handle it fine.  I think I just need to get past my mommy guilt of not being "early to bed, early to rise".  Oh well, I haven't found myself any wealthier or wiser at 6am... just more tired!  I'm thinking I may still try to get up around 7 so I have a few hours to myself.  I've always wanted that but wasn't able to force myself out of bed at 5 or earlier.  And I swear the earlier I got up, the earlier they woke up!!

  Last night was the first night we did this on purpose.  Paul and I wanted to watch a show so we still got kiddos ready for bed and in jams around 8 but we sent those 5 and older to the boys room to listen to Adventures in Odyssey and play card games until 9:30 or so. They had a ball!  At 9:30 we shuffled Hannah up to bed, had the boys clean up the room and they were in bed to listen to the end of the story playing until 10.  I heard some chit chat going on until around 11 but I wasn't stressed or angry because I wasn't concerned with cranky kids all day the next day.  It worked pretty well and I was still able to get four out the door for some well child check-ups by 11:30.

   So, we'll be experimenting here for the next week or so.  If you call before 9 and get the machine, don't feel guilty that we are plugging away at school and ignoring you... we'll just be sleeping!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Curriculum Week- Math and Language Arts

    In our family ordering math is a no brainer.  We have been using Math-U-See since the beginning.  You use manipulatives often and the idea is to get your kids to the point where the light bulb goes off and they get it, they understand the concept.  You get the response, "Oh! I see!"  We like this program for so many reasons but as a mom of many my top reason is because we order the DVD which Mr. Demme teaches each lesson.  By the time the kids are 2nd-3rd grade they are on their own besides questions or Mom and Dad checking their work.  So far it's been a good fit for all of our kids.  Some have to slow down, so fly through faster but all in all it works well for everyone.  We choose to buy new student text books for kids until 4th grade.  At 4th grade they copy the problems out of the book just like we did in school.  That way we can reuse them for all the kids (I hope).  We love Mr. Demme and had the privilege of hearing him speak last year at a homeschool conference.  We were a little nervous we were going to get a boring math lecture but he was fantastic!  After speaking to him after the conference, if it's possible, we were more sold out for Math-U-See than ever.  I know there are a ton of math programs and opinions out there but this is the one for us.

   For Language Arts I've been shopping around.  I am using Grammar Ace from Sonlight this year for Carter as a general overview of Grammar and I will do that for each child around 6th/7th grade.  For Carter next year we will be trying out this workbook from Easy Grammar.  I've heard lots of good things about Daily Grams and Easy Grammar so we're going to give this one a try.  For writing and literature we are going to try two new (to us) things from Heart of Dakota.  For the kids individual reading we are going to try their series Drawn Into the Heart of Reading.  We get to pick the books they use that fall into 9 different genre for the year.  It will then focus on different story elements and Godly character lessons.  I like that it has three different levels of instruction to use with a big age range.  This will help us dig a little deeper into our reading.   I am still looking at a few writing programs to use with all the above.  I found one that I like... but I can't remember it's exact name or where I found it!  Now I need to go hunting in all of my papers!  I'll get back to you on that one!

   Needless to say, I am very excited to try out some new things this fall!  My girlfriend and I were talking recently that in the beginning of homeschooling for us, the most annoying thing was "veteran" moms not giving us specifics of curriculum or schedules.  We just wanted the answers!  Now that our oldest children are hitting the teen years we're realizing why!  It takes a lot of time to figure out what works best for your family.  That's the hardest part (at least for me).  Just letting go and trusting God to take you in the direction He sees best for your family.  It's not that hard when sitting at home but if you hop online or talk to other families you quickly start to second guess if you're doing enough, too much, the wrong thing or missing something great.  At times I wish I could do it all over again and be more organized and more structured, but I'm not sure anyone but me would know the difference.  So far we've raised pretty good kids!  They are smart, articulate, kind, sensitive to others and love the Lord... not sure what I think we've missed!  I guess just the bragging rights that I've got it all together- nope... don't have that!  Oh, well ;0)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Curriculum Week- Foreign Language

   This post will be rather short and sweet ;0)  We haven't done much in the ways of foreign language so far in our homeschool journey.  This year Carter will start off on a new adventure.

   We own the Rosetta Stone Spanish program and assumed we would dive right in years ago.  It really is a great program but we ran into two problems with it.  One is when we used it with our younger children and they were on their own they would tend to mispronounce things for some time before we realized it.  It was actually quite cute because if they couldn't make their mouth say what it was suppose to they would turn it into fast English that sounded the same.  Caleb insisted something was "a-stuck-again-doe" LOL!  So we put it away for a couple of years and pulled it out this year for Carter and had Paul working with him.  It was going well BUT, Carter has NO interest in learning Spanish!  (I know, I know!)  It just wasn't worth it to him or then to Paul and we had to ask ourselves why.  Why??  Well there are many good reasons why, I guess the real question was why now?  To that we didn't have a good answer so we packed it away again.  It will be pulled out in high school for sure... I think.

   We do know we'd like our kids to be working on a foreign language as they get older and so we asked Carter what he wanted to learn.  Well, no surprise to us he yelled out GREEK!!  I know, he's a strange duck.  Then we started thinking... if our end goal is for them to truly know the Lord as savior and friend and use His Word as a plumb line for all things... wouldn't it make sense to study a language the Bible was originally written in?!  Yes!  We've (read that I) have been doing a lot of research on this and we have decided on trying the program Hey Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek!.  I know nothing about Greek so we will be learning side by side but I'm actually really excited to see where we go with this.

  I'll do an update once we get started.  I'm hoping this program will be great to work on together but also something Carter can do on his own if I'm busy wrangling toddlers and teaching phonics.  I have a feeling the younger boys will want in on it soon as well.  We'll see how it goes!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


   It's Wednesday and I said I would share a health tip or something along those lines, so here ya go.

   Living in the freezing cold makes it difficult to get outside to exercise.  You have to be pretty hard core to go up against windchills hovering around zero.  Sometimes you take a walk or run and feel great and then... you turn around!  The wind was at your back and now the way home feels a million miles away! In the summer my husband and I love to ride our bicycles.  We love to cycle whether it's 60 degrees or 98 degrees.  However once it gets around the 40's or 50's that wind again is pretty chilly and by the 30's it's slick and icy and we tuck our bikes away for a long winters nap.  Then it gets tougher.  I know I feel better when I move but getting out to a gym with 5 kids just isn't top on my list.

    Enter DVDs.  Yup, I'm one of those crazies workin' out in my Family Room!  This year's favorites?  Leslie Sansones walking DVDs.  They aren't crazy, they aren't loud and believe it or not you can get a pretty nice workout in just walking.  You'll find them very inexpensive and easy to find at Target or even Costco.  I found a book at the library this week by her with a 6 week workout challenge I'm going to try.  Here at her website she even has free "walk diets" she does several times a year.  I like this 6 week challenge because it starts at only a mile a day.  Today I did NOT feel like exercising but I could convince myself one mile was not a big deal.  The thought is once it's a habit it will be easier.  Here's hoping.  In all honesty I would not have done it today if it was 3 miles so I guess she knows what she's talking about on that level!
  If you need to get moving for weight loss or stress reduction (and who doesn't need that!), give these a try.  I think you'll really like them.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Curriculum Week- History/Science

    This one I am soooo excited for this year.  My husband and I LOVE history and our children do too.  We love to read about it always, but this year we will be trying something a little different.  We will be trying Vision Forum's study course on The History of Christianity and Western Civilization.  Check out this preview...

    We are super excited to try this out.  We just purchased this last week as it was on a great sale (thanks Jodi for the heads up!!).  I'm not sure this will wait for the fall!  We may dive in right away!  My hope is as we go and the kids show an interest or questions in what we are learning we will slow down and dig deeper as a family.  Hit the library, search online, whatever we need to find out more.  When we have quenched our thirst and curiosity in that area we will move on.  This is how we usually do history and we love it.

     I will say, for any of you looking into Sonlight, we really did enjoy their curriculum this year.  They had some really great reads and the kids have learned a lot.  We chose to "stay on track" and not slow down as we went through history and that is one thing I would do different if we do Sonlight again in the future. We also have used Truth Quest before and really enjoyed that too but would often get stuck in a time period with so many great books we never moved forward!

   Science is a little up in the air right now.  We like the look of  these and are leaning heavily towards them.  We also have used and loved in the past the Apologia Science Young Explorer Series.  We've done Astronomy and a bit of the Botany book.  We may pick up in the Botany book along with the DVD series mentioned above... we'll see.

   So there ya go!  Our history and science picks for the year. 

   So how about you?  What are your favorite science and history choices for your family??
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